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Right to Equality

Right to Equality is a Fundamental Right, which is enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution. Articles 14-18 deals with the provisions of the Right to Equality. It includes the following rights:

1. Equality before law and equal protection of laws (Article 14)

‘Equality before law’ is of British origin, and ‘Equal Protection of laws’ is from American Constitution.

  • Absence of any special kind of privileges favouring any person
  • Equal subjection of every citizen to the ordinary law of the land administered by ordinary law courts
  • No person is above the law
  • The like must be treated alike without any discrimination
  • Under equal circumstances, equality of treatment
  • Similar application of same laws to all the citizens who are similarly situated

2. Prohibition of Discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15)

  • State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth
  • No citizen shall be subjected to any disability, liability, restriction or condition on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth with regard to:

a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or

b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, road and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly by state funds or dedicated to the use of general public.

 Exceptions to this general rule of non-discrimination:

  • States can make special provisions for women and children, like reservation of seats for women in local bodies or free education for children.
  • States can make special provisions for socially or educationally backward classes of citizens, or for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, like reservation of seats or fee concessions in public educational institutions.
  • States can make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, or scheduled castes or scheduled tribes, with regard to their admission to educational institutions, including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the state, except the minority educational institutions. This provision was added by the 93rd Amendment Act of 2005, and through the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006, 27% quota was provided for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in all central higher educational institutions.

3. Equality of Opportunity in Public Employment (Article 16)

  • No citizen shall be discriminated against or be ineligible for any employment or office under the state on grounds of only religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or residence.

Exceptions to this general rule of equality of opportunity in public employment:

  • Residence, as a condition, can be prescribed by the Parliament for employment or appointment in a state or union territory or local authority or other authority. According to the Public Employment (Requirement as to Residence) Act of 1957 expired in 1974, there is no such provision for any state except for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • State can make provisions for reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class which is not adequately represented in the state services.
  • A law can provide that the bearer of an office related to a religious institution or a member of its governing body should belong to a particular religion.

4. Abolition of Untouchability (Article 17)

  • Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The application of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
  • The term ‘untouchability’ has not been defined in the Constitution. It refers to the social disabilities enforced on certain classes of the people by reason of their birth in certain castes.

The act declares following cases as offences:

  • Preventing anyone from entering any place of public worship or from worshipping therein;
  • Justifying untouchability on religious, traditional, philosophical or other grounds;
  • Refusing access to any shop, hotel or places of public entertainment;
  • Insulting a person belonging to scheduled caste on the ground of untouchability;
  • Denying to admit persons in hospitals, educational institutions or hostels established for public benefit;
  • Preaching untouchability directly or indirectly; and
  • Declining to sell goods or provide services to any person.

5. Abolition of titles (Article 18)

  • Prohibiting the state from granting any title (except military or academic distinction) on anybody.
  • Prohibits citizen of India from accepting any title from any foreign state.
  • If a foreigner is holding any office of profit or trust under the state, he can not accept any title from any foreign state without the President’s consent.
  • Any citizen or foreigner holding any office of profit or trust under the state, can not accept any present, emolument or office from or under any foreign state without the President’s consent.

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